X Close

UCL Public Engagement Blog



Co-designing services for young east Londoners during COVID-19 and beyond.

By Caroline Francis, on 10 March 2021

This article has been written by Diana Hysenaj and David Adesanya, two young people from east London, and is part of a new series exploring what UCL Community Engagement work has looked like during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This project was supported with funding from UCL East as part of Listen and Respond.

Fuse is a co-design project led by youth design agency The Plug Youth Innovation Agency, Hackney Quest youth charity and the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity. Fuse responds to the complex challenges young people growing up in east London face to achieve their aspirations in a context of widening inequalities and COVID-19-related economic decline.

The project has employed six young designers from east London to investigate how local businesses and organisations can facilitate and support young people to live prosperous lives. It will follow a 4-step research and design process: Discover, Develop, Design and Deliver and create a product, service or intervention that will support young people.

photograph of someones hands writing 'god' on sticky note next to other colourful sticky notes on the table.

Image Credit: Hannah Sender, Institute of Global Prosperity.

Hi! I’m Diana! And I’m David and we are here to tell you all about the Fuse project. The good, the bad and the ugly.

We are two of the six Fuse designers, working together to create a solution that helps young people in east London get into employment. The Fuse program brings together several organisations working in collaboration to create this solution, including the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity, Hackney Quest, the London Legacy Development Corporation and The Plug Youth Innovation Agency.

We both found out about the Fuse project online through various social media platforms and applied directly.

I, Diana, found it through Twitter, while David found it through IG!

After being shortlisted to the interview stage, I remember the reverse interviews and sending a reflection of the interview afterwards too. In other words, the reverse interview does exactly what it indicates: It reverses the roles of interviewer and interviewee. So, the interviewer will ask you to ask them questions about the position, company etc. you are seeking to be a part of.

So, we got in! Yay… and then the work began. We started with exploring some of the challenges the designers may face when conducting research and deepening our insights of the Fuse Project.

Once we explored who we can be as designers, we began to build the road map to delivery. We learned that to successfully create a product, service, or intervention which will support local young people, we will follow the double diamond strategy (a 4-phase development process where we begin with Mapping out, Exploring, Developing then finally Delivering the solution). Working with Hannah Sender from UCL has opened our minds to new ways of work. From exploring our first person accounts which enable our voice to be heard, and thus provide a transition from being an outsiders to an insider in the research (which is called autoethnography) to looking at the use of Google Maps when gathering our market research insights, we have developed our research skills immensely!

Here are some of our highlights:


To express new ways of mapping information, we looked at adding geolocations, i.e. with the interviews that we conducted and researched gathered. We used Google’s mapping system to tag the insights collected. Thanks to Barbara Brayshay from Living Maps for the training sessions!

Screenshot of a google map showing parts of North, East and Central London. On the map there are a range of different coloured pins marking different locations.


We’re young east Londoners ourselves. The challenges or opportunities we’ve experienced are valuable as insights. Autoethnography allows us to unravel our own experiences, and feed them into the insights gathered within our neighbourhoods.

Market Research

We have conducted intense market research exploring what is already out there; like organisations developing skills or providing work placements. We focused our research on organisations/services which cover east London and provide opportunities for Young People.

Primary Research

We are using the Youth Prosperity Index methodology to develop a model for the prosperity of young people in east London.

We interviewed local young people and businesses and then took key chunks of information from those interviews. I, David, created themes and categories for further exploration in our creation and testing of possible community resolutions. When coming up with the interview questions, the Prosperity Index helped highlight a wide range of topics, by incorporating five domains (entry points to help frame, build and develop the research stage from). For example, exploring belonging, identities and cultural domain by unravelling young people’s/businesses’ sense of community and social relationships.

Secondary Research

While David focused on primary research, I focused on secondary research, by breaking down the pre-existing data covering youth employment. I will then narrow my search by gathering data which explores specific topics like youth unemployment or youth opportunities in east London. In the coming weeks, I will continue to examine the key data found in more depth.

Now it is time to round this all up. While we have enjoyed many aspects of the project, there have also been some challenges working on the project during the pandemic. Such as balancing everyone’s schedules as sometimes we are presented with situations we cannot manage alongside work. We have resolved this by communicating key learnings of sessions outside of work and also checking up on each other. Nevertheless, these challenges have helped us develop as a team and find different ways to support one another.

So far, we have been able to develop our public speaking, ethics knowledge in conducting research, research skills and much more. The experience we have had with Fuse so far has allowed us to develop our skills massively and deepen our knowledge. So Diana, what’s one highlight? I have enjoyed my monthly discussions with some of the team exploring important topics in more depth, such as prosperity and regeneration. David, what’s one of your highlights? I have enjoyed learning from different thinkers working on the Hamra Neighbourhood Profile and Prosperity Index, and learning about how you create local community change in different neighbourhoods across the world. Another highlight for us has been getting to know everyone in the team beyond the work in new environments like a crime scene interrogation room. David, do you mean the Mafia Icebreaker? Yeah!

So this was the first episode of D & D Fuse talks and we look forward to catching up with you all soon! Ciao, Odabo, Mirupafshim (in other words goodbye!).

Diana Hysenaj:

Diana is an 18-year-old student studying Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University. Outside her work with Fuse, Diana is a Young Artist with NEWYVC choir, delivering workshops across primary/secondary schools in East London. Alongside this, she is a global mentor for iamthecode, helping to tackle the current global STEM skills shortage in marginalised communities.

She is also an ambassador for the Brokerage, a social mobility charity working with both young people and employers to drive positive change in the workplace and works on various projects one being a Youth podcast which will be launching soon! She volunteers her time to numerous organisations and during lockdown has been volunteering at Newham Foodbank.

David Adesanya:

David is an athlete, architecture graduate and social innovation fellow specialising in advocacy through design. He produces projects and research pieces highlighting silent conflicts in neighbourhoods in Europe, Beijing and he co-chairs a think tank in Pakistan. Besides this, he produces events, workshops and magazines. He has co-founded a collective which gives emerging creatives their first paid commissions and a space to cry, called Failsafe.

Hackney-born and raised! David believes we can affect and positively infect the world, and that’s what he’s here to do. He shares the belief that social action goes beyond just talking and pointing fingers at concerns rather, committing yourself to addressing and stopping it…

Listen and Respond

This project has been supported by funding from Listen and Respond, a rapid response funding scheme to support UCL staff work collaboratively with the voluntary community sector in London to respond to the needs of communities as they confront and recover from COVID19.

Leave a Reply